THE SEVENTEEN TOWNSHIPS*—LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE SUBJECT—ADDRESS OF GOV. HOYT— TITLES OF CONNECTICUT AND PENNSYLVANIA—PURITAN AND QUAKER—JURISDICTION AND SOIL CONSIDERED—A LONG AND BITTER CONTROVERSY—BOTH WERE RIGHT—ETC.
"*The Seventeen Townships" were the purchases of the Susquehanna Company, and were so designated in the ancient Pennsylvania proceedings, being the townships acquired by Connecticut claimants before the decree of Trenton, as follows: Huntington, Salem, Plymouth, Kingston, Newport, Hanover, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Providence, Exeter, Bedford, Northumberland, Putnam or Tunkhannock, Braintrim, Springfield, Claverack and Ulster."
IN a preceding chapter is some account of the part taken by the people of this county in the wars, marauds and massacres, commencing before the Revolution, continuing through that bloody seven years, and yet followed by Indian ambush when the lives of none were spared if the skulking savage dared to risk his own cowardly carcass in a near approach.
[p.137] The cruel circumstances of war were here doubly intensified by the fierce dispute among the whites over the possession of the soil. Luzerne county was the very heart of that bitter dispute; and upon the devoted heads of the Connecticut settlers came the double thunderbolt of the Indians and an invading foe, as well as the direct inflictions from the Pennsylvania authorities—a contention that was as bitter as it was long, where the people, miserably deserted by the Connecticut authorities, with only their naked hands and a courage and resolution sublime, stood every man to his post; and as though fate, too, had marked the fire-tried people, they in the end lost, and with the loss of everything except honor in the fierce contest, lost the world's sympathy in their cause—the fate of all people where they contend against legal authority and are finally overpowered.
Had the Connecticut people succeeded, Pennsylvania would have presented a very different face on the maps to what it does now. The boundaries of that possible State would have been: "Beginning ten miles east of the east branch of the Susquehanna river, on the one-and-fortieth degree of north, thence with a northward line ten miles distant from the said river to the end of the forty-second degree and to extend westward throughout the whole breadth thereof, through two degrees of longitude, 120 miles." This includes all of Bradford county except a little wedge of the northeast corner, as the east line bows to conform to the general bend of the river. The other three boundary lines are straight, the north line being the State line, and the south line being the south line of forty-one degrees. The other entire counties and parts of counties, as now formed, included in this described boundary, are as follows: Part of Susquehanna, Wyoming, Luzerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Union, Centre, Clinton, Clearfield, Elk Cameron and McKean, and the whole of Potter, Tioga, Lycoming and Sullivan. What a solid little State this would have made—about the size of Connecticut! This would have been Connecticut's first-born territory, and eventually a State.
What we may now regard as a close of this tremendous controversy, in its civic aspects, is the address of Ex-Gov. Henry M. Hoyt, delivered before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, November 10, 1879. We have given previously the contentions, the broils, battles and sieges as they occurred in the field. Gov. Hoyt was then in office; in his law practice he had been drawn into a careful study of the legal questions involved, and fortunately the society requested him to make an address on the subject. To the data he had professionally accumulated, he added such materials as the records and history gave, and delivered his able and eloquent address, and it may be now accepted as a full, complete and final summing up of the points involved, and dramatic as was that chapter in our country's history, the governor's "Syllabus," as he terms it, of the "Seventeen Townships," reads like the learned and impartial decision of the upright judge.
The English discovered and possessed North America from latitude thirty-four degrees to forty-eight degrees, and called the provinces South Virginia, and North Virginia, or New England. James I., April 10, 1606, granted the London Company the right to plant a colony anywhere between thirty-four degrees and forty-one degrees north latitude. Out of this grant came Virginia and the southern States. The same year the king granted similar right to Thomas Hanhaw, et al., between thirty-eight degrees and forty-five degrees. All these rights or grants extended entirely across the continent. America at that time was a kind of king's grab-bag.
November 3, 1620, the king incorporated the council of Plymouth "for the planting, ruling, ordering and governing of New England," and giving to their care from forty degrees to forty-eight degrees, "Provided any portion herein named be not actually possessed or inhabited by any other Christian prince, or State."
March 19, 1628, the council of Plymouth granted to Sir Henry Roswell, et al., all that part of New England between the Merrimac river and Charles river on Massachusetts bay. The southern boundary of this grant, as all of them in that [p.138] day, was "from ocean to ocean," and it ran along the forty-two degrees two minutes latitude. [The north line of Pennsylvania runs on forty-two degrees.] This was conferred by King Charles, March 4, 1629.
March 19, 1631, the council of Plymouth granted to Lord Say et al., "All that part of New England which lies and extends, itself, from the Narragansett river, the space of forty leagues upon a straight line near the shore, toward the southwest, west and by south of west, as the coast lieth, toward Virginia, accounting three English miles to the league." As usual it ran west to the sea. Upon the wording of this grant arose the most of the controversy. President Clap describes it thus: "All that art of New England which lies west from Narragansett river 120 miles on the sea coast; thence in latitude and breadth aforesaid to the South sea. This grant extends from Point Judith to New York; thence west to the South sea; and if we take Narragansett river in its whole length this tract will extend as far north as Worcester. It comprehends the whole colony of Connecticut and much more." The grantees appointed John Winthrop their agent, who planted a colony at the mouth of the Connecticut river, and named it "Saybrook."
April 20, 1662, Charles II. incorporated the Connecticut colony, and by letters patent made practically a new grant, the material or descriptive part of which is as follows: East by Narragansett river, commonly called Narragansett bay where the said river falleth into the sea; and on the north by the line of Massachusetts, as usual running "from sea to sea." In 1635, the Plymouth colony came to an end.
The import of this charter has not escaped the great American historian, Bancroft, who says, Vol. II, pp. 51, 54, 55:
"It would be a serious blunder to belittle this charter by viewing it simply as a link in this chain of title. Under John Winthrop it became 'the beginning of the great things' on this continent. 'They had purchased their lands of the assigns of the Earl of Warwick, and from Uncas they had bought the territory of the Mohegans; and the news of the restoration awakened a desire for a patent. But the little colony proceeded warily; they draughted among themselves the instruments which they desired the king to ratify; and they could plead for their possessions, their rights by purchase, by conquest from the Pequods, and by their own labor which had redeemed the wilderness.
"The courtiers of King Charles, who themselves had an eye to possessions in America, suggested no limitations; and perhaps it was believed, that Connecticut would serve to balance the power of Massachusetts.
"The charter, disregarding the hesitancy of New Haven, the rights of the colony of New Belgium, and the claims of Spain on the Pacific, connected New Haven with Hartford in one colony, of which the limits were extended from the Narragansett river to the Pacific ocean. How strange is the connection of events! Winthrop not only secured to his State a peaceful century of colonial existence, but prepared the claim for western lands.
"With regard to powers of government, the charter was still more extraordinary. It conferred on the colonists unqualified power to govern themselves.
"Connecticut was independent, except in name. Charles II. and Clarendon thought they had created a close corporation, and they had really sanctioned a democracy. "
July 11, 1754, an interval of nearly 100 years, the next line in the Connecticut chain of title, was the purchase of the eighteen chiefs, or sachems, of the five nations, for £2,000, by the Susquehanna company, of the lands described above as the "seventeen townships."
In May, 1755, the assembly of Connecticut, after stating that these lands were within the limits of their charter, resolved, that "we are of the opinion that the peaceable and orderly erecting and carrying on some new and well regulated colony or plantation on the lands above mentioned would greatly tend to fix and secure [p.139] said Indian nations in allegiance to his majesty, and accordingly hereby manifest their ready acquiescence therein."
Miss Larned, in her valuable history of Windham county, Conn., says: "The marvelous richness and beauty of the Susquehanna valley were already celebrated, and now it was proposed to plant a colony in this beautiful region, and thus incorporate it into the jurisdiction of Connecticut."
In the colonial records is found a petition to the assembly of Connecticut, dated March 29, 1753, describing these lands, and "as we suppose lying within the charter of Connecticut," and among other matters they say that they desire permission to possess "a quantity sixteen miles square to lie on both sides of the Susquehanna river," to which they would purchase the Indian right honorably," etc.
This constitutes the Connecticut chain of title to the "Seventeen Sections."
The Penns' Side.—William Penn's charter from Charles II. bears date March 4, 1681, the metes and bounds as are nearly now the boundary lines of Pennsylvania, except one degree south on the north line; whereupon, in taking possession of his domain, he issued the following proclamation:
My Friends: I wish you all happiness here and hereafter. These are to lett you know that it hath pleased God in his Providence to cast you within my Lott and Care. It is a business, that though I never undertook before, yet God has given me an understanding of my duty, and an honest minde to doe it uprightly. I hope you will not be troubled at your charge and the King's choice; for you are now fixt, at the mercy of no Governor that comes to make his fortune. You shall be governed by laws of your own making, and live a free, and if you will, a sober and industrious People. I shall not usurp the rights of any or oppress his person. God has furnished me with a better resolution, and has given me His grace to keep it. In short, whatever sober and free men can reasonably desire for the security and improvement of their own happiness, I shall heartily comply with. I beseech God to direct you in the way of righteousness, etc.
I am your true Friend,
(Signed) Wm. PENN.
October 11 and October 25, 1836, the Six Nations sold to William Penn the "entire country of Pennsylvania." Additional deeds were made to the Penns July 6 and July 9, 1754, and, finally, November 5, 1768, a deed to the Penns by the Six Nations conveys "all that part of the Province of Pennsylvania not heretofore purchased of the Indians.
Up to 1768, there is no evidence that any settler under Pennsylvania had set foot in the disputed territory.*
*Gov. Hoyt here overlooks the fact that by Penn's athority the whites had erected the first buildings ever in what is now Luzerne county, in 1753, for the use and occupation of the Indian chief Teedyescung.
In 1768, as we have seen, the Penns had completed their purchase of these lands at Fort Stanwix. The general council, held then, had made treaties which promised relief from Indian troubles. We have now come to the miserable contest, known in the common parlance of the country as
The First Pennamite and Yankee War.—It was a fair and beautiful and valuable prize, these magnificent valleys of the upper Susquehanna. Both sides prepared for the fray.
In 1768, at Hartford, the Susquehanna company resolved "that five townships, five miles square, should be surveyed and granted, each to forty settlers, being proprietors, on condition that those settlers should remain upon the ground; man their rights, and defend themselves and each other, from the intrusion of all rival claimants." Five townships in the heart of the valley were assigned to these first adventurers: Wilkes-Barre, Hanover, Kingston, Plymouth and Pittston. Kingston, the first township occupied, was allotted to "Forty" settlers. The lands were divided into rights of 400 acres each, "reserving and apportioning three whole rights, or shares, in each township for the public use of a gospel ministry and schools in each of said towns." A stockade was erected on the river bank in Kingston, [p.140] called "Forty Fort." It became the central point of much of the history of the region. With these settlers came Capts. Butler, Ransom and Durkee, some of whom had seen honorable service in the French war, and had shared in the campaign at Ticonderoga and Crown Point. They were not without the aid of bold adherents obtained in Pennsylvania—the shoemakers and McDowells, from the settlements on the Delaware, above the Blue Hills; and Lazarus Stewart and others, from Hanover, in Lancaster (now Dauphin) county, reinforced by some excellent Quakers from Rhode Island.
The designated leaders of the proprietaries of Pennsylvania were Charles Stewart, Capt. Amos Ogden and Sheriff Jennings, of Northampton county. They had able assistants in Capts. Clayton, Francis and Craig.
The Penns had leased to Stewart, Ogden and Jennings 100 acres for seven years, on condition of "defending the lands from the Connecticut claimants." This lease was the flag they hoisted as the badge of title and possession. They arrived first upon the ground. This was in January, 1769. They took possession of the block house and huts at Mill creek (about one mile above the present city of Wilkes Barre) which had been left by the massacred settlers of 1763. They laid out for the proprietaries two extensive manors: "Stoke," on the east bank, and "Sunbury," on the west bank of the Susquehanna, embracing the heart of the Wyoming valley.
In February, 1769, the first forty Connecticut settlers arrived. Finding the block-house in possession of Ogden, they sat down, midwinter as it was, to besiege it and starve out the garrison. Ogden proposed a conference. "Propose to a Yankee to talk over a matter, especially which he has studied and believes to be right, and you touch the most susceptible chord which vibrates in his heart." It was so here. Three of their chief men went to the block-house to "argue the "matter." Once within, Sheriff Jennings arrested them on a writ, "in the name of Pennsylvania." They were taken to the jail at Easton. Friends there bailed them, and they returned to Wyoming. Ogden then raised the posse of Northampton county, stormed the Yankee fort and carried the whole forty to Easton. They were all immediately liberated on bail, and all immediately returned to Wyoming.
In April, the quotas of four townships—200 men—arrived. These with the others constituted a force of nearly 300 now on the ground. They erected "Fort Durkee" on the river bank, and thirty huts. [The fort stood at the lower end of the "river common" in Wilkes Barre, the town itself being laid out by Maj. Durkee, and named after Cols. Wilkes and Barre, two members of parliament friendly to the colonies.] They had full possession now, and went vigorously at felling forests and planting fields. As the colony of Connecticut was as yet taking no part in this struggle, the Susquehanna company undertook to gain time and get delay by opening negotiations, but kept right on with the more rigorous preparations to recover the disputed ground.
In September the indefatigable Ogden appeared before Fort Durkee with 200 men, the posse of Northampton, for so far all was done under civil process. A four- pound iron cannon had been brought up from Fort Augusta (Sunbury). Capt. Durkee was captured by the adroit Ogden, and under the persuasion of the dreadful four-pounder, the whole garrison surrendered, and the Connecticut people were compelled to leave. This closed the year 1860, Wyoming remaining in the possession of Pennsylvania.
Ogden, believing he had made thorough work, disbanded his troops, and, leaving a small garrison in his fort at Mill creek, went to Philadelphia to enjoy his honors. In February Capt. Lazarus Stewart, of Hanover, Lancaster county, and his "forty" settlers (mostly Pennsylvanians these, who had purchased the township which he named for his own home, Hanover), appeared in the valley. They ousted Ogden's men from his fort, and captured the "four-pounder." This brought Ogden [p.141] rapidly back from Philadelphia with fifty men, and he re-possessed his Mill creek fortress. In a sally made upon him here, the Connecticut people were repulsed, and lost one man, killed-the first bloodshed as yet. Ogden was obliged to surrender in April, and retired from the valley.
Planting time had come, peace reigned, and confidence began to prevail. Spring and summer came, and the harvests were ripening, and no foe.
Pennsylvania, for some reason, had not crushed this dispute. In point of fact, the proprietaries having appropriated the best part of the valley to themselves, the people very generally sympathized with the settlers, and wished them success. However, with a new force, Ogden appeared once more in September, and by stratagem, most of the inhabitants being in their fields, without arms, once more captured the fort, dispersed the settlers and destroyed their crops. For the fourth time he retired to. Philadelphia, in the full belief that the contest was at an end. At the very close of the year, December 18, Capt. Lazarus Stewart, with thirty men, again swooped down upon Ogden's garrison, and the year closed with the valley in possession of the Yankees.
Promptly with the opening of 1771, Pennsylvania again sent her forces to recapture Fort Durkee and the fields of Wyoming. Capt. Ogden abandoned his fortress at Mill creek, and defiantly erected a new one, Fort Wyoming, within sixty rods of his adversary. Capt. Stewart commanded at Fort Durkee. It was Greek against Greek now. Ogden demanded the surrender of Fort Durkee. Stewart replied "that he had taken possession in the name and behalf of the colony of Connecticut, in whose jurisdiction they were, and by that authority he would defend it." Ogden assaulted, but failed, a number being killed and wounded in this affair. In turn he was besieged. Escaping, himself by a ruse, his garrison surrendered under formal articles of capitulation on the 14th of August, 1771.
The government of Pennsylvania, finding that the Connecticut forces had strongly fortified themselves—that their numbers were rapidly increasing, and believing, from the boldness and confidence of the intruding Yankees, that the government of Connecticut was sustaining them, gave orders for the withdrawing of the troops, and left the Connecticut party in quiet possession of the valley.
In answer to a letter from Mr. Hamilton, president of the council, to Gov. Trumbull, of Connecticut, inquiring under whose authority "these violent and hostile measures" were prosecuted, Gov. Trumbull thus cautiously replies, October 14, 1771: "The persons concerned in these transactions have no order and direction from me, or from the general assembly of the colony, for their proceeding upon this occasion, and I am very confident that the general assembly, friends as they have ever been to peace and good order, will never countenance any violent, much less hostile, measures in vindicating the rights which the Susquehanna company suppose they have to lands in that part of the country within the limits of the charter of this colony."
Connecticut had not yet "asserted its title" to the country. The inhabitants of Wyoming established a government for themselves. They laid out townships, formed settlements, erected fortifications, levied and collected taxes, passed laws for the direction of civil suits, and for the punishment of crimes established a militia, and provided for the common defense and general welfare of the "plantation." "Neither the Grecian nor Roman States, in their proudest days of republicanism, could boast of a governraent more purely democratic than was now established at Wyoming.
For the two years, 1772-3, peace and prosperity reigned. The "settlers" showed themselves competent to defend themselves, and their footing seemed securely established. In October, 1773, the general assembly of Connecticut "Resolved, That this assembly, at this time, will assert and, in some proper way, support their claim to those lands contained within the limits and boundaries of their charter, which are westward of the province of New York."
[p.142] Commissioners were appointed, who went to Philadelphia, in December, to bring the controversy to an amicable conclusion. The case was there fully gone over on both sides, but the negotiation failed of results. It was conducted with the most stately courtesy and ability. A strong Pennsylvania advocate says of his adversary: "I should have been glad to have seen the excellent temper and abilities of their penman ongaged in another cause."
In January, 1774, an act was passed by the general assembly of Connecticut, erecting all the territory within her charter limits, from the river Delaware to a line fifteen miles west of the Susquehanna, into a town, with all the corporate power of other towns in the colony, to be called Westmoreland, attaching it to the county of Litchfield. As might have been expected, this greatly strengtheded the settlers, and was hailed with much satisfaction. They were now under the law and protection of the ancient and high-standing colony of Connecticut. "A sense of security existed, a feeling of confidence ensued, which gave force to contracts, encouraged industry, and stimulated enterprise."
The Wyoming region was in Northampton county until the year 1772, when it went into Northumberland, according to the municipal division of Pennsylvania.
On July 3-7, 1772, Col. Plunkett, of Northumberland county, under orders of the government, destroyed the settlements of Charleston and Judea (Milton), on the West Branch, which had been made under the auspices of the Susquehanna company, in which affair some lives were lost. With about 500 armed men, in December, 1775, Col. Plunkett, with his train of boats and stores of ammunition, moved up the north branch to drive off the Connecticut settlers from the Wyoming country. About 300 of these settlers met him at Nanticoke and repulsed him, with some loss of life on both sides. At this point, congress interfered and "Resolved, * * * that the contending parties immediately cease all hostilities, and avoid any appearance of force until the dispute can be legally settled." It is evident that the dispute had widened into national importance.
After Col. Plunkett's failure, all "appearance of force" did cease until after the decree of Trenton, in 1782.
In 1775 the number of inhabitants of Wyoming was something more than 3,000 (a little less, Miner thought).
In November, 1776, the town of Westmoreland was erected into a county of Connecticut, to be called Westmoreland, and thereupon its civil and military organization was complete.
Three companies of troops were raised there for the continental establishment, and were part of the Twenty-fourth regiment of the Connecticut line.
The Decree of Trenton.—After the failure of Col. Plunkett's expedition, in 1775, we left the Yankees in possession. It required some considerable self-control and more patriotism in Pennsylvania to drop the controversy at that stage. But, under the request of congress, she did so. Promptly on the appearance of peace, after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the State, by petition of her president and supreme executive council, prayed congress to appoint commissioners "to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question, agreeably to the ninth article of the confederation." Connecticut asked for delay, "because that sundry papers of importance in the case are in the hands of council in England, and can not be procured during the war." Congress overruled the motion, and on the 28th day of August, 1782, issued commissions to William Whipple, of New Hampshire; Welcome Arnold, of Rhode Island; David Brearly and William Churchill Houstin, of New Jersey; Cyrus Griffin, Joseph Jones and Thomas Nelson, of Virginia, or any five or more of them, to be a court of commissioners, with all powers, prerogatives and privileges, incident or belonging to a court, "to meet at Trenton, in the State of New Jersey, on Tuesday, the 12th day of November next, to hear and finally determine the controversy between the said State of Pennsylvania [p.143] and State of Connecticut, so always as a major part of said commissioners, who shall hear the cause, shall agree in the determination."
The commissioners, except Joseph Jones and Thomas Nelson, met and formed the court November 19, 1782. Messrs. William Bradford, Joseph Reed, James Wilson and Jonathan D. Sergeant appeared as counsel for Pennsylvania; and Messrs. Eliphalet Dyer, William S. Johnson and Jesse Root, as counsel for Connecticut.
Upon the assembling of the court the agents for Connecticut, after reciting the possession and improvements of large numbers of persons holding under the Susquehanna company, moved that "the tenants in possession, holding as aforesaid, be duly cited to appear and defend."
The court rightly overruled the motion "that the same can not be admitted according to the construction of the ninth article of the confederation.
The commission under which they acted was founded on the second clause of the ninth article. The determination of the claims of private property, or right in the soil, would have been ceram non judice, that jurisdiction being derived from the third clause of the article, the two jurisdictions could not be blended.
Connecticut then moved an adjournment to procure evidence, especially "a certain original deed from the Indians of a large parcel of the land in dispute obtained from their chiefs and sachems, at their council in Onondaga, in A. D. 1763, and now in England.
The court did not grant the postponement.
The agents of Pennsylvania set forth their claims as follows:
1. The charter of King Charles II. to Sir William Penn, dated March 4, 1681.
2. That said Penn and the succeeding proprietaries purchased from the native Indians the right of soil in some parts of the territory; and that the Indians had conveyed to Thomas and Richard Penn, particularly on the 25th day of October, 1736, "The full and absolute right of preemption of and in all the lands not before sold by them to the said proprietaries, within the limits aforesaid."
3.They stated the limit of the said charter.
4.That by virtue of the Declaration of Independence the articles of confederation, and the act of the Legislature of 27th November, 1779, the right of soil and estate of the late proprietaries was vested in the State, and that "Pennsylvania was entitled to the right of jurisdiction and right of soil within all the limits aforesaid."
5. The claims of certain settlers under title derived under Connecticut, and the assertion of title by the State of Connecticut.
The agents for Connecticut exhibited a statement of the claim of that state, in which they deduced the title from the crown, through the Plymoth council, and the charter of Charles II., dated April 23, 1662, described the limits of that charter; set forth the exception of New Netherlands, afterward New York; alleged that in 1753, the state having located and settled their lands on the east side of New York, and being in a condition to extend their settlements in the western part of their patent, for that purpose permitted certain companies of adventurers to purchase large tracts of land of the native Indians, on the Susquehanna and Delaware, within the limits of their charter; "and in A. D. 1754, said companies proceeded and made settlements on said lands, so purchased, as aforesaid, and ever since have, though with various interruptions, continued to hold and possess the same, under the title of the colony of Connecticut, and the legislature have approved of the purchases and settlements of the adventurers aforesaid, and have actually erected and exercised jurisdiction in and over said territory, as part and parcel of said colony."
The court was in session forty-one judicial days. On Monday, December 30, 1782, they pronounced the following judgment:
We are of the opinion that the state of Connecticut has no right to the lands in controversy.
[p.144] We are unanimously of the opinion that the jurisdiction and pre-emption of all the territory lying within the charter boundary of Pennsylvania, and now claimed by the State of Connecticut, do of right belong to the State of Pennsylvania.
All the public, corporate rights of Connecticut, as to jurisdiction and property in the land, were embraced within the jurisdiction of this court, and this decree was final and conclusive between the States which were parties to the cause.
That this determination did not touch the private rights of property not only appears by the record, but is placed beyond doubt by the written opinions of the members of the court that had dedided the case. The individual claims of those who had purchased of the Connecticut company, it was understood by the unanimous court, were not effected by the decree. However, these facts were not given the public for a long time.
After the decree at Trenton, a petition was presented to congress by Zebulon Butler and others, claiming the private right of soil under Connecticut, and praying for a court of commission to determine their claims.
January 23, 1784, congress resolved to institute a court for the purpose. At length, however, the resolution was repealed, because the petition doth not describe, with sufficient certainty, the tract of land claimed by the said Zebulon Butler, and others, nor particularly name the the private adverse claims under grants from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Congress seemed to have acted on the theory that each claimant should bring forward a separate petition, the land claimed, and name the adverse claimants with certainty. They do not seem to have entertained any doubt of the right to such special trials, independent of the decision at Trenton.
But the settlers were poor, oppressed, and wasted by war; and by this time, 1786, the heavy hand of civil and military power was raised to crush them. Before another petition could be brought forward the new constitution was adopted, and as a matter of course the federal courts succeeded to all jurisdiction vesting in the special courts of commissioners.
It has generally been considered that the decree of Trenton was made rather out of consideration of policy than right; that Connecticut had pre-arranged the case with Pennsylvania and congress, and that, out of the arrangement, she was to get the "Western Reserve." The theory is based on a report on finances made in congress on January 31, 1783, a month after the decree, in which it is said, incidentally, "Virginia and Connecticut have also made cessions, the acceptance of which, for particular reasons, have been delayed." These cessions came thus.
At the close of the American Revolution, the circumscribed States contended that all unlocated lands of the States which ran to the "South sea" should, beyond some reasonable bounds, belong to the United States in common, as a prize equally contended for by all. Congress recommended that this be done. Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia severally passed such sessions. In 1786 it was "Resolved, That congress, in behalf of the United States, are ready to accept all the right; title, interest and claim of the State of Connecticut to certain western lands," etc. When the session was offered, the absolute acceptance of it was opposed by Pennsylvania, whose members in congress moved a proviso that it should not be construed or understood to affect the decree of Trenton. This proviso was rejected. They then moved that congress should not accept the session, because it might virtually imply a sanction of what was not coded; but if Connecticut would first relinquish to New York, Pennsylvania, and the United States, respectively, all her claims of jurisdiction and property west of the eastern boundary of New York, the United States would then release to Connecticut the property, but not the jurisdiction of a tract of land of 120 miles in extent, west of Pennsylvania: This resolution was negatived. A proviso was then moved, that the acceptance of any cession of western territory from any State which had been or might be made, should not be "construed [p.147] or understood as confirming or in any way strengthening the claim of such State to any such territory not ceded," which also received a negative. Again it was moved, to be accepted on this condition, that it should in no degree affect the claims of any State to any territory, ascertained by the decree of the Federal court, to be within the territory or jurisdiction of such State, or to injure the claims of the United States under acts of cession from any individual State. This was also negatived. At last the acceptance was passed in those unqualified terms: "Resolved, That congress accept the said deed of cession, and that the same be recorded and enrolled among the acts of the United States in congress assembled."
This has been regarded as a substantial recognition of the Connecticut charter by the United States.
By the deed Connecticut grants "all right, title, interest, jurisdiction, and claim to certain western lands, beginning at the completion of the forty-first degree of north latitude, 120 miles west of the western boundary line of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as now claimed by the said commonwealth, and from thence by a line drawn north parallel to, and 120 miles west of said west line of Pennsylvania, and to continue north until it comes to forty-two degrees and two minutes of north latitude."
This reservation, or rather tract not ceded, is (bounding it easterly by the west line of Pennsylvania) 120 miles east and west, and one degree and two minutes wide north and south, containing several millions of acres. This was called New Connecticut, or the Western Reserve—a goodly part of northeastern Ohio.
Whatever the motive, Connecticut promptly acquiesced in this decision at Trenton. Not so, however, the claimants under her. They held their case as still undecided. They admitted the retrospective operation of the decree as to the public rights of the immediate parties, that is, the two States, but contended that "the principle of relations does not retrospect so as to affect third persons. "They cited the long line of precedents as to settlements between colonies contending about the lines of jurisdiction; that the grants of colonies made to subjects had been held sacred, whether within the line as it was after settled or not. Such had been the case between Rhode Island and Connecticut, between Massachusetts and Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, between New York and Connecticut. That had been the case between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and between Pennsylvania and Virginia. New York, indeed, attempted to infringe the rule in the case of New Hampshire grants in Vermont, but finally conformed to the justice of the general rule. And it is perfectly analogous to the doctrine respecting officers de facto, whose acts, so far as relates to the rights and interests of third persons, are effectual in law, notwithstanding the offices are found to belong of right to other persons.
The vote of a sitting member in a legislative assembly is legal, though it may afterward be decided that he was not elected. The decision in such cases never operates retrospectively.
By the former constitution of Pennsylvania, a year's residence was a requisite qualification to vote at elections. Within a year after the Trenton decree, twenty- four Wyoming settlers, who had lived a number of years on the contested land, attended in the county of Northumberland, and gave their votes for two members of the legislature and one of the executive council. The votes were received by the returning officer, and decided the election in all the three cases. But the elections were contested, these votes set aside, and the elections declared in favor of the other candidates by the legislature and the council respectively, because the twenty-four persons had not resided a year in Pennsylvania, for that territory was Connecticut until the Trenton decree. This legislative and executive determination proceeded upon the same great principle that the jurisdiction, decided by the [p.148] Trenton commissioners, does not go back and affect the preexisting rights or condition of private persons.
In this view the settlers determined to acquiesce cheerfully in the decree, accept their citizenship in Pennsylvania, but to listen to no terms which involved "aban- donment of their possessions."
From this time on, matters are to be conducted under the governmentof Pennsylvania, and we are to go through the "second Pennamite war," but the happy outcome is to be under Pennsylvania statutes, and the decisions of Pennsylvania courts.
The Confirming Act.—"The second Pennamite war." A bird's-eye view of Pennsylvania in 1783 will show: The Friends, possessed of a prosperous and thrifty metropolis, and rich fields in Philadelphia and the adjoining counties.
The German, profitably and industriously settled along the eastern base of the Kittochtinny, or "Blue hills," from the Delaware to the Susquehanna, holding that rich agricultural territory, as he holds it yet.
The Scotch-Irish, in the Cumberland Valley, and pushing up the Juniata, and winding around the spurs of the Alleghanies, into the then counties of Bedford and Westmoreland.
The Yankee, seated in the valleys of the North Branch of the Susquehanna.
The rest of the State, except some valleys of the West Branch, was an unbroken wilderness. The total population did not exceed 330,000.
Of the Yankee settlers, there were probably about 6,000. These were scattered, mainly, in seventeen townships in the county of Luzerne, then including the territory of Wyoming, Susquehanna and Bradford. Their townships were five miles square, and extended, in blocks, from Berwick to Tioga Point, embracing the bottom lands along the river—Providence, the present site of Scranton, being on the Lackawanna. These townships were Huntington, Salem, Plymouth, Kingston, Newport, Hanover, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Providence, Exeter, Bedford, Northmoreland, Putnam, Braintrim, Springfield, Claverack and Ulster. They contain a present population of 180,000 people.
The inhabitants at once set about meeting the adverse effects of the proceedings at Trenton. A petition was drawn to the assembly of Pennsylvania, in which, after reciting at length the facts, they touchingly and pathetically close thus: "We have settled a country (in its original state), but of little value; but now cultivated by your memorialists, is to them the greatest importance, being their all. We are yet alive, but the richest blood of our neighbors and friends, childred, husbands and fathers, has been spilt in the general cause of their, country. * * * * We supplied the continental army with many valuable officers and soldiers, and left ourselves weak and unguarded against the attack of the savages and others of a more savage nature. Our houses are desolate—many mothers childless—widows and orphans multiplied—our habitations destroyed, and many families reduced to beggary, which exhibits a scene most pitiful and deserving of mercy. * * * * We care not under what state we live. We will serve you—we will promote your interests—will fight your battles; but in mercy, goodness, wisdom, justice, and every great and generous principle, leave us our possessions, the dearest pledge of our brothers, children, and fathers, which their hands have cultivated, and their blood, spilt in the cause of their country, has enriched. We further pray that a general act of oblivion and indemnity may be passed, * * * and that all judical proceedings of the common law courts held by and under the authority of the state of Connecticut be ratified and fully confirmed."
Acting on this petition, the assembly, inter alia, "resolved that commissioners be appointed to make full inquiries into the case, and report to the house; * * * that an act be passed for consigning to oblivion all tumults and breaches of the peace which have arisen out of the controversy."
On March 13, 1783, an act was passed by the assembly.
[p.149] The garrison of continental troops had been previously withdrawn. Their places were now supplied with two companies of State troops, under Capts. Rubinson and Shrawder. The presence of these troops was a cause of great anxiety to the settlers.
On April 15 the commissioners arrived. In their first communication to the "committee of settlers," April 19, 1783, they made the ominous declaration: "Although it can not be supposed that Pennsylvania will, nor can she, consistent with her constitution, by any ex post facto law, deprive her citizens of any part of their property legally obtained, yet," etc.
This was pretty fair notice of expulsion. Judge John Jenkins replied in behalf of the settlers, by a dignified but passionless recital of their rights and claims much more worthy of the sturdy settlers than the petition referred to. The "committee of Pennsylvania landholders," Alexander Patterson, chairman, now came forward with their terms of what they called "the conditions of compromise." That the commissioners should have endorsed them is beyond belief. They were: "We propose to give leases with convenants of warranty for holding their possessions one year from the first day of April instant (April 22, 1783), at the end of which time they shall deliver up full possession of the whole, * * and if they have any opportunities of disposing of their hutts, barns, or other buildings they shall have liberty to do it. * * The widows of all those whose husbands were killed by the savages, to have a farther indulgence of a year, after the first of April, 1784, for half their possessions."
Patterson was determined "to feed fat the ancient grudge he bore them."
Judge Jenkins replied the same day: "As we conceive that the proposals of the committee, which they offer as a compromise, will not tend to peace, as they are so far from what we deem reasonable, we can not comply with them without doing the greatest injustice to ourselves and our associates, to widows and fatherless children; and, although we mean to pay due obedience to the constitutional laws of Pennsylvania, we do not mean to become abject slaves, as the committee of land- holders suggest in their address of your honors."
The commissioners divided Wyoming into three townships, the new ones being named Stokes and Shawanese. Justices of the peace were elected by Patterson and his associates without notice to or participation by the inhabitants, they not yet being freeholders and voters in Pennsylvania.
The commissioners reported to the assembly which convened in August, 1783. They recommended to the families of those who had fallen in arms against the common enemy, reasonable compensation in land in western Pennsylvania, and to the other holders of Connecticut titles who did actually reside on the land at the time of the decree at Trenton, provided they delivered possession by April 1, following.
Now, Pennsylvania began to vacillate in her policy. The assembly approved all their suggestions. The division of Wyoming into three townships was also approved. The "act to prevent and stay suits" was repealed September 9, 1783.
Two full companies of soldiers, "who have served in the Pennsylvania line," were enlisted. Capt. Patterson, now a justice of the peace, returned full of zeal. He changed the name of Wilkes-Barre to Londonderry. For protesting against the lewdness and licentiousness of the soldiery, he arrested Col. Zebulon Butler, then just returned from service in the Revolutionary army. Him he sent to Sunbury, charged with high treason. In Plymouth he arrested many respectable citizens; feeble old men whose sons had fallen in the massacre—Prince Alden, Capt. Bidlack, Benjamin Harvey, Samuel Ransom, Capt. Bates and others—greatly beloved by their neighbors. They were kept in loathsome prisons, starved and insulted. They were dispossessed, and Patterson's tenants put into their places. The unhappy husbandman saw his cattle driven away, his barns on fire, and wife and daughters a prey to licentious soldiery.
[p.150] The people, outraged, petitioned the assembly. It sent a committee to take testimony. Daniel Clymer, of Berks, one of the committee, rose in his place, and said, "there was evidence enough to show that Alexander Patterson ought to be removed."
Gen. Brown, another member of the committee, said he "was certain no member of the house could imagine him in the interests of the people of Wyoming, beyond the bounds of truth and the desire to do justice. He had visited Wyoming as one of the committee on the subject, and had heard all the evidence on both sides. The wrongs and sufferings of the people of Wyoming he was constrained to declare were intolerable. If there ever was on earth a people deserving redress, it was those people." But Patterson was sustained by the assembly.
At the opening of 1784 matters reached a crisis. I quote Chapman, writing in 1818, a trustworthy chronicler: "The inhabitants finding, at length, that the burden of their calamities was too great to be borne, began to resist the illegal proceedings of their new masters, and refused to comply with the decisions of the mock tribunals which had been established. Their resistance enraged the magistrates, and on the 12th of May the soldiers of the garrison were sent to disarm them, and, under this pretence, 150 families were turned out of their dwellings, many of which were burned, and all ages and sexes reduced to the same destitute condition. After being plundered of their little remaining property, they were driven from the valley, and compelled to proceed on foot through the wilderness by way of the Lackawaxon to the Delaware, a distance of eighty miles. During the journey the unhappy fugitives suffered all the miseries which human nature seemed capable of enduring. Old men, whose children were slain in battle, widows with their infant children, and children without parents to protect them, were here companions in exile and sorrow, and wandering in a wilderness where famine and ravenous beasts continued daily to lesson the number of sufferers."
In March, of that year, a flood in the Susquehanna had swept the lowlands, carrying houses and fences all away. Patterson seized the opportunity, with land lines thus obliterated, to dispossess the occupiers, restore the lines of Pennsylvania surveys, and thus bring about the cruel and pitiful exodus just referred to.
He shall tell his own story: "The settlements upon the river have suffered much by an inundation of ice, which has swept away the greatest part of the grain and stock of all kinds, so that the inhabitants are generally very poor. Upon my arrival at this place (Wyoming), the 15th instant (April, 1784), 1 found the people for the most part disposed to give up their pretensions to the land claimed under Connecticut. Having a pretty general agency from the landholders of the behalf of my constituents, the chief part of all the lands occupied by the above claimants, numbers of them going up the river to settle, and filling up their vacancy with well- disposed Pennsylvanians, * * yet I am not out of apprehension of trouble and danger arising from the ringleaders of the old offenders," etc. (By "ringleaders he means such men as Butler, Ross, Denison, Dorrance, Shoemaker, Jenkins, Franklin, Slocum, Harvey, etc.) By the 1st of June he had made pretty clean work of it, and this without trial or verdict or other process of law.
Wherever news of this outrage reached, indignation was aroused, and nowhere more generally than in Pennsylvania. The troops were ordered to be dismissed. Sheriff Antis, of Northumberland county, which then included Wyoming, went to restore order. Messengers were dispatched to recall the fugitives. But they found Justice Patterson still flaming with wrath, and went into garrison near Forty fort. Two young men, Elisha Garrett and Chester Pierce, having been slain by Patterson's men, while proceeding to gather the crops, the settlers rallied for serious hostilities. John Franklin organized what effective men he could find. He swept down the west side of the Susquehanna and up the east side, dispossessing every Pennsylvania family he found. He attacked the fort, to which they fled, was [p.151] repulsed with a loss of several lives on each side, and returned to the Kingston fort. Civil war now openly prevailed. (Forty of the Pennsylvania party were indicted at Sunbury, and subsequently convicted for their participation in expelling the inhabitants.) Other magistrates, Hewitt, Mead and Martin, had been sent to open negotiations. They demanded a surrender of arms from both sides. In their report to the president and members of the supreme council, under date of August 6, 1784, they say: "In obedience to instructions of council of July 24, we repaired to this place (Wyoming), and found the Pennsylvania and Connecticut parties in actual hostilities, and yesterday made a demand of the Connecticut party of a surrender of their arms, and submission to the laws of the state, which they complied with. We also made a demand of the same nature of the party in the garrison, but have received no direct, but an evasive answer. * * * As to the pretended titles of the Connecticut party we have nothing to fear, and are convinced that had it not been through the cruel and irregular conduct of our people, the peace might have been established long since, and the dignity of the government supported.
Again, under date of August 7: "We have dispersed the Connecticut people, but our own people we can not."
The "party in the garrison" consisted of Patterson and such troops as had enlisted under him in the interests of the landholders, without any warrant of law. When Patterson refused to surrender, the Connecticut people were permitted to resume their arms. At this stage Cols. Armstrong and Boyd appeared with a force of 400 militia from Northampton county. By a piece of the most absolute treachery he procured the surrender of the Yankees, and marched them, sixty-six in all, bound with cords, and under circumstances of great cruelty, to jail at Easton and Sunbury. The conquest was complete. "The only difficulty that remained was how to get rid of the wives and children of those in jail and of the widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers slept beneath the sod."
Col. Armstrong was now confronted, to his surprise, by the censure of the State authorities. The "council of censors" looked into the case and took action. Frederick A. Muhlenberg was president. This body had just been chosen under the constitution of 1776, and it was their duty "to inquire whether the constitution has been preserved inviolate in every part, and whether the legislative and executive branches of the government have performed their duty as guardians of the people, or assumed to themselves or exercised other or greater powers than they are entitled to by the constitution."
In September, 1784, they delivered a decision which was a solemn denunciation of the measures pursued against the Wyoming settlers.
The executive council paid no heed to the censure nor to the advice of President Dickinson. A fresh levy of troops was ordered. The militia of Bucks, Berks and Northampton refused to march. Armstrong hastened to Wyoming with less than 100 men, in October. He promptly attacked the settlers in their fort at Kingston, without success. William Jackson, a Yankee, had been wounded. Capt. John Franklin seized Jackson's rifle, bloody from his wound, and swore a solemn oath "that he would never lay down his arms until death should arrest his hand, or Patterson and Armstrong be expelled from Wyoming and the people be restored to their rights of possession and a legal trial guaranteed to every citizen by the constitution, by justice and by law."
Gen. Armstrong went on to dispossess the families who had returned to their several farms. All these proceedings led up to the passage of the act of assembly of September 15, 1784, entitled "An act for the more speedy restoring the possession of certain mossuages, lands and tenements in Northumberland county to the persons who lately held the same," under which the settlers were once more let into some assurance.
Armstrong and Patterson were recalled. "Thus ended the last expedition fitted [p.152] out by the government of Pennsylvania to operate against her own peaceful citizens," and "the second Pennamite war."
The few real Pennsylvania improvers had a sufficiently unhappy life of it. They were subjected to great hardships, and, if you please, outrages, not forgetting the unfortunate encounter in Plymouth, in July; the lamentable affair at Locust Hill with Maj. Moore's command, in August; the indignity offered to Col. Boyd, a Pennsylvania commissioner, in September; nor the attack, on September 26, on the commissioners (disclaimed by Franklin and his party), nor the final attack on "the garrison," in which Henderson and Reed were shot.
By October 1, 1784, the condition of affairs was deplorable, but "the thing was settled," and the agony over.
"Two years have now elapsed since the transfer of jurisdiction by the Trenton decree. Peace, which waved its cheering olive over every other part of the Union, healing the wounds inflicted by ruthless war, soothing the sorrows of innumerable children of affliction and kindling the lamp of hope in the dark chamber of despair, came not to the broken-hearted people of Wyoming. The veteran soldier returned, but found no resting place. Instead of a joyous welcome to his hearth and home, he found his cottage in ruins or in the possession of a stranger, and his wife and little ones shelterless in the open fields or in the caves of the mountains; like the sea-tossed mariner approaching the wished-for harbor, driven by adverse winds far, far from shore, to buffet again the billows and the storm. It is true, and honorable to those who affected it, that the New England people were repossessed of their farms, but a summer of exile and war had left them no harvest to reap and they returned to their empty granaries and desolate homes, crushed by the miseries of the Indian invasion; mourners over fields of more recent slaughter, destitute of food, with scarce clothing to cover them through the rigors of a northern winter, while clouds and darkness shrouded all the future. Assuredly, the people of Wyoming were objects of deepest commiseration, and the heart must be harder and colder than marble that could look upon these sufferings and not drop a tear of tenderest pity."—[Miner.]
We have had occasion to notice the failure of the claimants and the Susquehanna company to get a new tribunal appointed by congress to try their case under the articles of confederation. Col. Franklin had been active and untiring in his efforts to that end.Upon their failure he went to Connecticut to see his old frionds and to stir them to some new and dangerous enterprise. He pointed out the richness and beauty of the valley of Wyoming; the wrongs of her people; the failure of Pennsylvania, with all her machinery, to oust a handful of settlers. "A chord was struck that vibrated through all New England. Franklin, in the spirit of his oath, infused his own soul, glowing with resentment and ambition, into the people with whom he conversed; and had not his schemes been counteracted by a timely and prudent change of policy on the part of her authorities, Pennsylvania had lost her fair northern possessions, or, by a new civil war, extinguished the Connecticut claim in blood.
Mischief was in the wind. Justice David Meade was about the last Pennsylvania claimant left in possession, although he was one of the earliest Connecticut settlers. He was one of Patterson's justices, looked upon as a traitor from the Yankee ranks, and a spy on the people. Rising one morning, he found a dozen men mowing his meadows.
Said one: "Squire Meade, it is you or us. Pennamites and Yankees can't live together in Wyoming. Our lines don't agree. We give you fair notice to quit, and that shortly." It illustrated the situation. He was the last Pennsylvania claimant on the Wyoming lands.
The Susquehanna company was reconvened at Hartford on July 13, 1785. Its proceedings were significant, and embraced a substantial declaration of war. [p.153] Pennsylvania had been a vigilant observer of events. On December 24, 1785, she passed "An act for quieting disturbances at Wyoming, for pardoning certain offenders, and for other purposes therein mentioned."
A general pardon and indemnity was offered for offences committed in the counties of Northumberland and Northampton, in consequence of the controversies between the Connecticut claimants and other citizens of the State, before November 1, 1785, provided the persons having so offended surrendered themselves before April 15, 1786, and entered into bonds to keep the peace. It also repealed the act confirming the division of the townships of Shawanese, Stokes, and Wyoming into two districts for the election of justices of the peace, and annulled the commissions granted.
No great number of these settlers were in any humor thus to sue for pardon, and the law fell—a dead letter.
The Susquehanna company met again in May, 1786. This time it rather chivalrously resolved to "effectually justify and support the settlers." In fact, the latter, while nominally under the laws of Pennsylvania, governed themselves. Sheriff Antis, of Northumberland county, had wisely "pocketed" most of the writs he held against them, unexecuted.
On September 25, 1786, the county of Luzerne was erected. It embraced the lands settled by the New England emigrants. It gave them representation in the council and the assembly, and proved to be a wise measure. But step by step, as Pennsylvania moved to close up the trouble, the Susquehanna company went forward with its scheme of revolution.
On December 26, 1786, at its meeting in Hartford, it appointed the following ominous list of "commissioners:" Maj. Judd, Samuel Gray, Joel Barlow, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Al. Wolcott, Jr., Gad Stanley, Joseph, Hamilton, Timothy Hosmoro, Zebulon Butler, Nathan Denison, Obadiah Gore, John Franklin, Zerah Beach, Simon Spalding, John Jenkins, Paul Schott, Abel Pierce, John Bartle, Peter Loop, Jr., John Bay, and Ebenezer Gray. These were well-known names, and it was quite certain that what they responsibly undertook, would be done. They or any five of said commissioners "shall be a court with power, etc., * * * this power to determine whenever a form of internal government shall be established in that country."
Gen. Ethan Allen was in the scheme, and actually appeared at Wyoming, in regimentals and cocked hat, with the Green Mountain boys, fresh from their victory over New York, in reserve, and in his honor was laid off Allensburg township, along the upper Wyalusing creek. This was a large grant to Ethan Allen. The purpose was to erect the Connecticut claim in Pennsylvania into a new State, and the action was as public and as bold as that of the Declaration of Independence, by brave and desperate men who stood at bay.
They issued "half-share" rights in great numbers, and new faces, strangers to the "old settlers," began swarming into the valley. The old-time residents had no sympathy with all this. They knew it prolonged the unhappy situation, and deprecated its effects. As a witness in Vanhorne vs Dorrance expressed it: "The half-share men and the old settlers were a distinct people, and as much opposed to each other as to Pennsylvanians." On December 27, 1786, an act was passed providing for the election of representatives, justices of the peace, etc., in Luzerne county. Timothy Pickering, Zebulon Butler and John Franklin were appointed in the act to notify the electors, take oaths of allegiance, etc. Franklin, as we have seen, had other views, and refused to act. Pickering had come as the special representative of the government of Pennsylvania. He was politic, and held to his definite purpose wisely. Col. Butler wished repose for his neighbors and himself. Col. Pickering, as the result of a previous visit (unofficial) to this region, had reported to the State authorities "that the inhabitants expressed a willingness to submit to the [p.154] government of Pennsylvania provided they could have their lands confirmed to them."
He then consulted eminent legal authority as to the right of the State to cede the lands to the Connecticut people, and, thereupon, "he undertook the laborious, the difficult, and, in the minds of many, the hopeless task of conciliating the minds of the Wyoming people. With his utmost efforts, during a whole month's diligent application, he barely succeeded, and solely by the expectations he persuaded them to entertain that they be confirmed in their possessions."
With these assurances, the groat majority of the people were for submission. Three classes were opposed. A few, thoroughly imbued with the absolute rights of their, case, filled with the glowing traditions of their struggles, wanted their possessions confirmed first, and submission afterward. Pennsylvania claimants of course resisted; such of the Susquehanna company's grantees as were outside the lines of "the seventeen townships," and the new influx of "half-share men."
Says Minor: "And now, for the first time, was presented the spectacle, equally gratifying to foes and painful to friends, of open and decided hostility among the Wyoming people. Whatever difference of opinion may exist in respect to the justice of their claims, no liberal mind could have traced their arduous course through toil and privation, through suffering and oppression, through civil and foreign war, and observed the fortitude, fellowship and harmony among themselves that had prevailed, without a feeling of admiration for rare and generous virtues so signally displayed. In an equal degree was the mortification at the spectacle now presented. It was no longer 'Pennymite and Yankee,' but the 'old settlers' against 'the wild Yankees' or 'half-share men.'"
The election went forward. John Franklin was chosen the member of assembly; Nathan Denison, member of the supreme executive council, and Lord Butler, high sheriff. Thus the county of Luzerne was fully organized.
Forthwith, a long petition was sent to the legislature then in session, setting forth that "seventeen townships, five miles square, had been located by the Connecticut settlers before the decree of Trenton," etc., and praying that "they might be confirmed in them."
On March 27, 1787, "an act for ascertaining and confirming to certain persons, called Connecticut claimants, the lands by them claimed within the county of Luzerne, and for other purposes therein mentioned," was passed.
The preamble is in the words: "Whereas, before the determination of the claim of Connecticut, a number of its inhabitants, with their associates, settled upon and improved divers tracts of land, lying on and near the northeast branch of the river Susquehanna, and the waters thereof, and now within the county of Luzerne; and whereas, parts of the same lands have been claimed under titles derived from the late proprietaries of Pennsylvania, and those interfering claims have occasioned much contention, expense and bloodshed, and this assembly being desirous of putting an end to those evils by confirming such of the Connecticut claims as were acquired by actual settlers prior to the determination of said dispute, agreeably to a petition of a number of the said settlers, and by granting a just compensation to the Pennsylvania claimants," etc. It enacted:
That all the said rights or lots now lying within the county of Luzerne which were occupied or acquired by Connecticut claimants who were actually settlers there, at or before the determination of the claims of the State of Connecticut by the decree aforesaid ("the decree of Trenton"), and which rights or lots were particularly assigned to the said Settlers prior to the said decree, agreeably to the regulations then in force among them, be and they are hereby confirmed to them and their heirs and assigns.
A great town meeting of the settlers was at once called to accept or reject this act. John Franklin prepared for a final rally against it. He literally preached against it from settlement to settlement, and from house to house. The assembly [p.157] was held at Forty fort—the first place the organized Connecticut settlers touched on their arrival, and, as it proved, the place where the last word was said. As might be supposed, the meeting was an excited one, and friend fell into wretched antagonism to friend. The act was accepted. Col. Jenkins asked, "What security have we, that if we comply, and put ourselves in your power, the State wouldn't repeal the law, and deal as treacherously as in the case of Armstrong?" His question proved to be a bitter prophecy.
It was at this juncture that Gen. Ethan Allen appeared on the scene. Pickering well knew his object. Pickering and Franklin each permitted no movement of the other to escape notice. The time for decisive action had come. Regarded as the head of the conspiracy, John Franklin was, on October 2, 1787, arrested for high treason, under a warrant issued by Chief Justice McKean.
As Col. Pickering had personally assisted in the arrest of Col. Franklin, he deemed it prudent to flee to Philadelphia. While there, the people chose him as a delegate of Luzerne county to the convention called to ratify the constitution of the United States. This was a cordial testimony to their belief in ultimate justice at the hands of the State. Having discharged that duty, he returned to Luzerne county, of which he was prothonotary, clerk of the peace, clerk of the orphans' court, register of wills and recorder of deeds.
Franklin was cruelly treated, being ironed down in a cold, miserable dungeon, with insufficient food, no clothing except the light suit he had on when arrested, prohibited all communication with friends and all use of pen, ink and paper. Here he was kept nearly two years. His friends were desperately willing to do anything in their power to secure his release. June 26, 1788, they kidnapped Pickering, and proposed holding him as a hostage, or secure his influence for the release of Franklin.
The kidnappers were pursued by Pickering's adherents, and were fired upon and serious wounds inflicted, when the pursuit was given over. This was the last time that blood was shed in the long and cruel contention. Pickering resolutely refused to yield to the demands of his captors, and was, after three weeks, released.
The arrest of Franklin and the acceptance by the people of the "confirming law," no doubt arrested the movement for the new State, which had already gone to the extent of completing its frame of government, and Oliver Wolcott had drafted its constitution and arranged that Maj. William Judd, of Farmington, Conn., should be governor and Col. Franklin lieutenant-governor.
The following brief sketch of the greatest leader of his time in the settlement of northern Pennsylvania, was written by Edward Herrick, of Athens:
"Col. John Franklin was born at Canaan, Litchfield county, Conn., September 26, 1749; removed to Wyoming in the spring of 1774; was many years an acting magistrate under Connecticut; captain of an independent company during the Revolutionary war, and, while attached to Sullivan's expedition against the Indians, was wounded in the attack on Chemung; member of the assembly of Connecticut in 1781; in October, 1787, he was arrested on a charge of treason against the State of Pennsylvania for 'endeavoring to subvert the government, and to erect a new and independent State in the room and stead thereof;' was confined in Philadelphia nearly two years, a great part of the time heavily ironed, released on bail, and never brought to trial; in 1792 he was elected high sheriff of Luzerne county, while an indictment for treason was still hanging over him, was commissioned and served; in 1795, 1796, 1799, 1800, 1801, 1803, he was a member of assembly from Luzerne county; by the act of April 2, 1804, a small portion of Luzerne county, including his farm, was set off to Lycoming county; this act was avowedly for the purpose of keeping him out of the legislature, but in 1805 he again appeared in that body as a member from Lycoming; in 1789 he renaoved to his farm in Athens (then Luzerne, now Bedford county), which was laid out to him under Connecticut title, and there resided until his death, March 1, 1831. He never accepted nor recogaized a Pennsylvania title, but after his death his heirs were required to purchase that title to his farm.
[p.158] In the settlement of northern Pennsylvania he was the recognized leader, making annual pilgrimages to New England, and bringing back hosts of industrious settlers whose descendants to this day preserve the virtuous character of their puritan ancestry; the people whom he brought thither, he never forsook. Their battles he fought in the courts, the assembly, in newspapers and pamphlets, and, if necessary, with his strong right arm, with a zeal, persistency and fidelity which deserved for the cause he thought to be right, a better fate.
The "confirming act" failed of execution. The reasons therefor are best given in Col. Pickering's own words: "The conditions expressed in the contract (he refers to the act) were complied with on the part of the Connecticut claimants, as far as it was practicable, and they were not bound to perform impossibilities; that eight months from the time of passing the act were allowed them to get information of it, and to present their claims; that the commissioners appointed to receive and examine those claims were required to meet, for that purpose, in Luzerne county, in two months next after the passing of the act; that owing to successive resignations of Gen. Muhlenberg, Gen. Heister and Joseph Montgomery, Esq., those examinations did not commence till some time in August; that the seizure of John Franklin, on October 2, for his treasonable practices and designs, occasioned a sudden insurrection of his adherents, of whom a very small number had any pretensions to land under the confirming law; that a few days before this arrest, Col. Balliot, one of the commissioners, had gone home to his family; that the subscriber, another of the commissioners, having personally, in the sight of the people, and with arms in his hands, assisted in securing Franklin and preventing any attempt to rescue him, and thus rendered himself obnoxious to the resentment and sudden vengeance of his partisans, was advised to retire to some secure place until their heat should subside; * * * that Col. William Montgomery, the other commissioner, seeing the storm gathering, immediately after Franklin was taken, had left the country to go home; * * * that, the commissioners having thus separated, never again assembled, the time limited for the presentation of the Connecticut claims expiring so soon after as November 28 following; * * * that, since this event (referring to his own abduction), the county has remained in perfect quiet, the laws having as free and complete operation as in any other county." Then, arguing against the repeal of the act (this paper is written February 27, 1790): "That the people rely on the magnanimity and good faith of the State for the execution of the grants made to them by the confirming law; that in this expectation their industry is manifestly increased, they have begun to build more comfortable houses, to erect barns, and to extend the improvements on their lands; that a repeal of the law would check this rising industry, stop further improvements, revive ancient jealousies and animosities, and, perhaps, destroy the peace of the country. But, to say nothing of the attempt, as a breach of public faith, it may be worth while to inquire, whether such repeal be in its nature possible? He goes on to treat the act as a contract," or "treaty of peace."
The landholders, however, were not without power in the assembly. Using the conduct of the people as a cause or pretext, the act was suspended on March 29, 1788.
Act Repealed.—The seal to this final act was prepared by the suspension act, throngh no fault, be it remembered, on the part of the Connecticut claimants. The cross purposes that had arisen among the people themselves and the clamor of the landholders, brought the pressure that resulted in its repeal, April 1, 1790. This act of crowning bad faith was strongly resisted by many leading men of Pennsylvania, and among others some of the most noted lawyers of Philadelphia. Col. Jenkins' anxious, prophetic question had, indeed at last been answered. Still the people went on quietly and hopefully. Although the law was repealed, by it Pennsylvania had distinctly recognized their rights in the case, and they settled in the, [p.159] conviction that somehow, at some time, their titles would be secured, and justice be done. The Susquehanna company proceeded actively with their operations. What is now Bradford county was at once laid out in townships, not continuous with any municipal subdivision of the State. By the year 1795, it is said that what is now the entire territory of the county was covered with the "claims" of these grantees, and at the same time by "warrants" from Pennsylvania on top of them.
Intrusion Law.—April 17, 1795, a statute was passed enacting penalties and punishment against any person taking possession or intruding upon lands within the limits of Northampton, Northumberland or Luzerne counties, except by right obtained from the commonwealth.
Section 6 excepts any claims of persons claiming under "the confirming act" March 28, 1787, etc. The exception took "the seventeen townships" out of the, effect of the act.
Under this act John Franklin and John Jenkins et al. were indicted at August sessions, 1801, in Luzerne county, and a special verdict found against them. It, was removed by certiorari into the supreme court. There the act was held constitutional, but the defendants were discharged on other grounds. Commonwealth vs. Franklin et al., 4 Dallas, 255, 316. (The arguments of counsel as reported here, are worthy of attention.)
It was held under this act "that the contract in this case (for the sale of lands) is illegal, being founded on a breach of the law, and, of consequence, a void contract," Mitchell vs. Smith, 1 Binney, 110.
This act is known as the "intrusion law," and has been subjected to much harsh criticism.
At length on April 21, 1795, the case of Vanhorn's lessee vs. Dorrance, 2 Dallas, 304, came on to be tried in the circuit court of Pennsylvania district. It was ejectment for a little tract of about twelve acres. Selected as a test, the plaintiff naturally brought it on the best title which could be produced. Jared Ingersoll, Jona D. Sergeant and William Tilghman appeared for the plaintiffs, William Rawle,, William Lewis and Joseph Thomas appeared for the defendants.
There was the fullest latitude in the testimony. All the charters and deeds hereinbefore referred to were put in evidence. The surveys and possessions of the tract in controversy were given. Col. Denison, for the defendant, detailed his entry upon the lot in 1770, and the incidents of the first Pennamite war. William Gallup gave in evidence an account of "the massacre." Col. Pickering narrated the events of the second Pennamite war, and of the reception of the confirming act. Robert Morris stated how, while a member of the assembly in 1786-7, he, at first, was in favor of calling out the militia, to expel the Yankees, but became an advocate for the act. The resolves of Connecticut—the records of the Susquehanna company —Smollett's history—acts of congress—the conduct of Patterson's and Armstrong's troops—Col. John Henry Lydius' deposition as to the execution of the famous Indian deed of July 11, 1754 (Mr. Tilghman hands this deed to court and jury, to show its suspicious face), were all put in evidence.
It was such a case as had never been tried in Europe or America.
It sufficiently appeared that the defendant had the earliest and a continued pos- session. The plaintiff claimed under a "warrant of survey," executed March 15, 1771.
Judge Patterson gave the jury binding instructions, and made short work of the Connecticut title.
1. "The title under Connecticut is of no avail, because the land in controversy is ex-territorial; it does not lie within the charter bounds of Connecticut, but within the charter bounds of Pennsylvania. The charter of Connecticut does not cover or spread over the lands in question. Of course, no title can be derived from Connecticut."
[p.160] The declaration that the land "does not lie within the charter bounds of Connecticut is here for the first time in the history of the controversy judicially made. This was not decided by the court at Trenton—their decree was only that, at the date of it, the "jurisdiction" and "pre-emption" was in Pennsylvania as against Connecticut. This conclusion may have grown out of acts of "dereliction" or "estopel," since the date of charter, as well as out of a question of original "charter bounds."
Nor did it follow that "of course, no title could be derived from Connecticut." The judge does not advert to the facts from which the court at Trenton made the distinction between "jurisdiction" and "private right of soil"—that the defendant's title had been created under another soverign actually exercising jurisdiction—that the jurisdiction had been recognized by the United States in various ways, notably by accepting the troops from Wyoming, the Twenty-fourth Connecticut regiment, as part of the continental line—by accepting, absolutely, the cession of western territory from Connecticut under the same title the defendant held—that (by sufferance or otherwise) Pennsylvania had permitted the de facto government of Connecticut to be maintained at the situs of the land in dispute—and that in the origin and progress of the whole business there were such circumstances as might give the defendant title, independent of the will of Pennsylvania, previous to December 30, 1782.
2. The "Indian deed" was summarily dismissed as one "under which the Connecticut settlers derive no title."
3. As to the title under the confirming act of 1787.
An act calling upon an individual to surrender or sacrifice his whole property for the good of community, without receiving a recompense in value, would be "a monster in legislation, and shock all mankind. The legislature, therefore, had no authority to make an act divesting one citizen of his freehold, and vesting it in another, without a just compensation." * *
"The next step in the line of progression is whether the legislature had authority to make an act divesting one citizen of his freehold and vesting it in another, even with compensation.
"The existence of such power is necessary; * * and if this be the case, it can not be lodged anywhere with so much safety as with the legislature.
"Such a case of necessity, and judging, too, of the compensation, can never occur in any nation; * * even upon full indemnification, unless that indemnification be ascertained in the manner which I shall mention. * * Here the legislation must stop; * * they can not constitutionally determine upon the amount of compensation, or the value of the land."
That can only be done—"by the parties"—"by commissioners mutually chosen by the parties"—or, "by the intervention of a jury."
By the act, the Pennsylvania claimants are to present their claims to the "board of property," who are
1. To judge of the validity of their claims.
2. To ascertain, by the aid of commissioners, appointed by the legislature, the quality and value of the land.
3. To judge of the quantity of vacant land to be granted as an equivalent.
"This is not the constitutional line of procedure. * * By the act, the equivalent is to be land. No just compensation can be made except in money.
"It is contended that the legislature must judge of the necessity of interposing their despotic authority. Be it so. Did there exist also a State necessity that the legislature or person solely appointed by them, must admeasure the compensation, or value of the lands seized and taken, and the validity of the title thereto? Did a third State necessity exist, that the proprietor must take land by way of equivalent for his land? And did a fourth State necessity exist, that the value of this land-equivalent must be adjusted by the board of property, without the consent of the party, or the interference of a jury? Alas! how necessity begets necessity. * * * 'Omnipotence in legislation is despotism.' In short, gentlemen, the confirming act is void; it never had constitutional existence; it is a dead letter, and of no more virtue or avail than if it had never been made."
In its application to the exact facts of the case of Vanhorne vs. Dorrance, this exposition is undoubtedly correct. The act applied to this state of facts was unconstitutional for the reason stated. But at the time the confirming law was passed, the State was proprietor of a large portion of the lands which the settlers held. The State had the power and the right to give away her vacant lands (vacant as to her titles), and it is the better opinion that this law was binding on the legislature in favor of an "actual settler, before the decree of Trenton," for whose land, at the date of the act, there has been issued no Pennsylvania title. In that respect the confirming law was "of no more avail than if it had never been made." Mr. Rawle, in his dissentient, goes further and says: "But in no instance can the power of repealing laws affect their obligations while in force, and, consequently, if the effect of the law while in force is permanent and perpetual upon the subjects to which it relates, a repeal, although it may destroy the law, can not diminish the effect it has already produced."
[p.161] Judge Patterson proceeds as to the mode of executing the law: The estate of the Pennsylvania claimants was not divested on the passing of the act; it was not divested on presenting the claim on the part of the Connecticut settlers.
"The intention of the legislature was to vest in Connecticut claimants, of a particular description, a perfect estate to certain lands in the county of Luzerne; but then it was upon condition," which, of course, must be complied with.
If the legislature had authority to make the confirming act, they had also the authority to suspend it. * * * Of course, there is an end of the business. The parties are placed on their original ground—they are restored to their pristine situation.
This would not be accurate as to the class of Connecticut settlers just referred to. As to them, the grant by the act was a good one; for a sufficient consideration recited in the act, they had a right of title, which a subsequent legislature could not defeat. "The intention" the judge refers to had been executed, irrepealably as to them.
Judge Patterson did not regard the repeating act of April 1, 1790, had, either as "an ex-post facto law," or as "a law impairing the obligation of a contract." Yet he says himself: "If the property to the lands in question had been vested in the State of Pennsylvania, then the legislature would have had the liberty and right of disposing of or granting them to whom they pleased, at any time and in any manner."
There were large quantities of such lands held by Connecticut settlers. Surely, as to such, the repealing law was "ex-post facto" and, "impaired the obligation of a contract," and as such, was contrary to the constitution of the United States.
Judge Patterson closes pungently:
1. The confirming act is unconstitutional and void. It was invalid from the beginning, had no life or operation, and is in precisely the same state as if it had not been made. If so, the plaintiff's title remains in full force.
2. If the confirming act is unconstitutional, the conditions of it have not been performed, and, therefore, the estate continues in the plaintiff.
3.The confirming act has been suspended; and
All of which was perfectly true in its application to the facts of the case, and the verdict was properly for the plaintiffs.
The case was appealed to the supreme court of the United States, and stricken from the dockets without trial.
It was said Vanhorne fled the country, and process could not be served on him, and that Dorrance's attorney, Thomas, disappeared mysteriously with the papers in the case. Hence, but little or no results came of the case. It opened the courts whose records were soon burdened with cases where the Pennsylvania claimants hoped to gain possession of the disputed lands and rid the State of the burden of compensation; and while many actions were brought in eight years, there were the barren results of this one being partly tried.
Compromise Act of 1799:—This was the beginning of the end. The law was passed April 4, 1799, "offering compensation to the Pennsylvania claimants of certain lands within the seventeen townships in the county of Luzerne. "The law fixes the status of the conflicting claimants, and appoints Isaac Wheelon, of Chester county; Thomas Boude, of Lancaster county, and General William Irvine of Cumberland county, commissioners to examine all questions concerning claims to land in the seventeen townships, and divide the claims into four classes to be known as first, second, third and fourth class, and for paying damages according to the respective classes. The act is long and directory, and was intended as one of meditation on the part of the State between the conflicting claimants.
The Pennsylvania claimants, refusing or neglecting to execute releases, were to [p.162] be paid in land or money. The Connecticut claimants, with the memory of the repeal of the "confirming act" fresh in their minds, were little disposed to act or take the benefit of this law.
April 6, 1802, an act was passed requiring the commissioners to survey, value and certify the whole of each tract claimed by Connecticut people, and turned the Pennsylvania claimant, who had not released, over to the mercy of a jury to award his compensation.
In 1805 the Westmoreland county records were authorized to be deposited with, the recorder of deeds in Luzerne county, and certified copies made evidence.
April 9, 1807, Pennsylvania claimants, under title previous to the "confirming act," were permitted to release, and the commissioner in examining Connecticut claims "shall not require the same lands to have been occupied prior to the decree of Trenton, but the same lands to the several applicants certify, if under the rules and regulations of the Susquehanna company, at any time they should otherwise thereto be entitled." This commission was abolished March 28, 1808.
These laws were executed with intelligence and fidelity. By October, 20, 1802, about 1,000 Connecticut people had exhibited their titles. All the lines in the seventeen townships had been again surveyed, and certificates issued to the holders. These certificates were conclusive between Connecticut claimants, but did not conclude a Pennsylvania claimant.
Of the compromise act of 1799, in the case of Barney vs. Sutton, 2 Watts, 36 Scott, president judge of the Luzerne common pleas court sums up the whole thus: "At last the legislature adopted the expedient of acting as mediators between the Connecticut and the Pennsylvania claimants, for the purpose of putting a final end to the controversy. The act was strictly the act of mediation. It proposed terms of settlement and compromise to the parties, and the controversy was finally happily settled. The judge then gives the following as pertinent history of the long-drawn-out contention:
At the commencement of the Revolution settlements had been effected in most, if not all, of the seventeen townships, and in many of them extensive improvements had been made. The settlers were a hardy, intelligent, brave and patriotic people. During the Revolutionary struggle neither the sufferings and privations which they endured nor the menace of the executive authority of Pennsylvania could drive them from their settlements, nor could the offers of British gold tempt them to abandon their country or the common cause of liberty and independence in which they were engaged. They had become so numerous that they furnished nearly 1,000 men for the regular service. They did still more. They sustained, single-handed, for more than three years, a frontier war, during the most gloomy period of the Revolution, and successfully repelled an enemy "whose known mode of warfare spared neither age nor sex nor condition." On July 3, 1778, they were attacked by a numerous body of Indians, British and tories, and in one disastrous battle nearly the whole settlement were reduced to widowhood and orphanage. The feeble remnant that escaped soon mustered and returned to the settlement, and until the close of the war presented a barrier to the incursions of the savage foe.
This is a mere skeleton of the early history of this settlement. It would require a volume to fill it up. But enough has been noticed to satisfy any one not blinded by interest or prejudice of the equitable claims of these people. They came into possession under color of title, such a title, too, as they honestly believed to be good, and in which they were induced to confide by a government claiming jurisdiction over the territory. Was this circumstance nothing as a ground of equity? Were the improvements and possession of the country nothing? Were the sacrifices and sufferings and privations of the people in defence of the country and in the common cause nothing? Are such a people to be considered outlaws? To this last question I adopt the answer of the late chief justice in the case of Satterlee vs. [p.163] Matthewson: "God forbid! They are not to be so considered." Considerations like these have uniformly been regarded as sufficient in Pennsylvania to ground an equity. The principle has been carried further. Our statute books and the decisions of our courts furnish numerous instances where like considerations have been deemed sufficient grounds of equity in favor of those who had taken possession of lands without title or color of title, and in favor of those who had taken possession in violation of the positive enactments of the legislature, as in the case of lands not purchased of the Indians.
"Half-share Men."—An act of the assembly, March 11, 1800, repealed the general act for the limitation of actions to be brought under the act of March 26, 1785, within the seventeen townships, or in any case where title is claimed under the Susquehanna company.
April 6, 1802, an act was passed by the legislature, which the court, in the case of Irish vs. Scovell, 6 Binn, 57, fully explains when it says: "The manifest object of this act appears to have been to continue the kindness which had been extended to the seventeen townships, but to cut up by the roots the title of Connecticut in all other parts."
And it thoroughly accomplished its purpose, but was attended with some unfortunate circumstances, but of these it is necessary here to notice only such as were enacted within Luzerne county. The "half-share" men were often called the "Wild Yankees"—they realized that they were being ruthlessly outlawed—and Col. John Franklin, the Satterlees, Kingsburys and Spaldings were their friends, and in some respects their leaders. Acts of bloody violence were committed. Col. Arthur Erwin, an extensive land owner in the north part of the county, was shot dead while sitting in the door of Mr. McDuffie, of Athens; the Rev. Thomas Smiley, at that time living eight or ten miles up the Towanda creek, while acting as an assistant agent under the "intrusion law," was tarred and feathered. Col. Abraham Horn had been appointed by the Pennsylvania landholders to put the "intrusion law" in force, and at once entered upon his duties. In June, 1801, he went to Bradford county, but, apprehending danger from the violent oppression of the people, he stopped at Asylum. Rev. Thomas Smiley had written to the agent that nearly all the forty settlers on Towanda creek would renounce their Connecticut titles, and purchase of the Pennsylvania claimants. A conference was held at Asylum. Mr. Smiley was commissioned a deputy agent, and, furnished with the necessary papers. July 7 he obtained the signature of nearly forty to their relinquishments and submissions, and started for Asylum. A meeting was held, and the "Wild Yankees" determined that the business must be stopped. About twenty men from Sugar Creek, Ulster and Sheshequin, armed and diguised, started in pursuit. Mr. Smiley, hearing the arrangements of the conspirators, went down to Joshua Wythe's, near Monroeton, where be remained until dark, and then stopped for the night at Jacob Granteer's. The parties followed him and broke into the room where he was sleeping, captured his papers, burned them, and led him down to the creek, tarred and feathered him, and the leader giving him a kick told him to "go." John Murphy, David Campbell, Jacob Irvine, Ebenezer Shaw Stephen Ballard and Benjamin Griffin were presented to the grand jury for this, but no bill was found.
Gov. Hoyt concludes with the following propositions:
1. In the form of law, Connecticut, with a title regular on its face, failed justly.
2. In the form of equity the Connecticut settlers, without other title than the possessio pedis prevailed rightly.
This is the condensed story of the "seventeen townships," the "Connecticut claims"—the "first and second Pennamite and Yankee wars," as well as the story of the settlement of northern Pennsylvania and the unequaled bravery, [p.164] patience and endurance of our distinguished forefathers. A chapter of deep interest to every student of American history; the central individual figure in it all was Col. John Franklin, the representative of Connecticut. To this day men in considering it are liable to confuse the two and only questions in it all into one question, and thereby bias their own otherwise better judgments. These qnestions should have been kept distinct, namely, right of jurisdiction and the right of soil, and in this light would have been easily settled. The actual settlers cared nothing as to the jurisdiction over them, and it must be conceded that on both sides purchasers bought good titles, that is, the individual acted in good faith, and the authorities on each side had good color of authority to dispose of the soil. In this view the judicial question for the courts should have been simply one of priority of claim, regardless of which faction either party belonged to or claimed under. When the Trenton decree was promulgated it was the plain duty of Pennsylvania to have promptly accepted that as a settlement of all questions in her favor of jurisdiction, and at once recognize every title of the Connecticut claimants, and this would have incorporated the colony as good and loyal citizens of the State, and have ended forever all dispute or bad blood. The State erred in making itself a partisan in the question of soil, a mere agent or attorney, intent upon, land-grabbing in behalf of its clients, regardless of all questions of equity or even justice, and it proceeded in a long course of evictions that were not only unjust, but utterly cruel. As seen above, in the end the State had to become a mediator—the very thing it should have done at first. It did this only when Connecticut ceased to trifle with the question, and set about in earnest a bold defence of its long-suffering people. After the thing had run on a hundred years or more, and the people had suffered an unbroken stream of wrongs to which they had been led by the promises of Connecticut, then it roused up and boldly said to its colonists, if you can get justice in no other way than by forming yourselves into a new and separate State, we will back you even to the bloody issue. This action of Connecticutt brought here Ethan Allen and his followers, flushed with his successes in Vermont, and it is estimated that by the time the mediatory act of Pennsylvania, 1799, was passed, there were 10,000 people in the valley, ready to carve out with their sharp swords the new State; that these men, made desperate, could have defended themselves against the world. Many of the ablest and purest men of the State were now taking sides with the Connecticut claimants, and happily the authorities saw the gathering cloud and promptly, though now impossible of fairness and equity, took the only step it could take, and the end came.
Nothing more fitting could conclude this chapter, which is a more compilation from the historical lecture of Gov. Hovt before the society, than the words of the same gentleman used in an address delivered at the base of the monument July 3, 1891. Of all men living perhaps not one is so well qualified to treat the subject so profoundly, judicially and understandingly as Ex-Gov. Hoyt, who for years investigated all sides of the question as a lawyer and student in cases in which he was engaged, where the cold, impartial truth alone could avail:
The Wyoming massacre was a most deplorable episode. It had no necessary connection with the orderly development of history in this valley. It was an incident which happened to occur here, but which was produced by no local causes, and, as I think, was not inspired by local considerations. From 1769 to 1799 a controversy between the purchasers under the Susquehanna company and the State of Pennsylvania wore out one whole generation of men in itself. I myself have never seen any historical connection between that controversy and the massacre. At the same time the partisans of one side of that controversy were the victims of the massacre, and hence the tendency to identify the controversy with the massacre. I think it well, here and now, to get right, historically, on this question, and to try and arrest the tide of resentment which is apt to arise against the State in which our ancestors [p.167] finally concluded to make their homes. The descendants of those who fought are enjoying the fruits of those fields and mines over which it was waged. The pith and core of that conflict seems to be located on Abraham's Plains. It was a war to the knife on the broad arena of natural rights, law and politics. If it had arisen in the days of Pericles at Athens it would not have developed more self-poised and alert disputants. The 6,000 Yankees had not only purchased rights but had the pluck to stand for them with arms.
We shall always preserve grateful and reverential memories of the men who fell here. But you, their descendants, are entitled to claim kin to the framers of Magna Charta and the Declaration of Independence. The massacre came at an interval when the controversy with Pennsylvania was not being waged. After the failure of the attempt under Pennsylvania by Col. Plunkett, in 1775, and up to the decree of Trenton in 1782, there was a suspension of hostilities here under the direction of congress. Then came the second Pennamite war, the passage of the confirming act of 1787, its repeal in 1790, and the uncertain but never hopeless expectation of final relief, which came under the compromise act of 1799. In the progress of these events a generation had come and gone. The most intelligent believed that their settlement was under a good title from Connecticut. As Justice Breckenridge said in Carkuff vs. Anderson, "they were not trespassers."
That these isolated frontiersmen should have known and stood by their rights with intelligence and devotion, is to this day a wonder and amazement to the impartial student. Connecticut never protected or defended them. Their patient resistance outlasts the ill-timed and cruel attempts of the State, in 1784, to dispossess them—though the efforts of the State's agents was merciless and irresponsible. After the decree of Trenton the settlers expressed their willingness to observe the laws, but insisted on being confirmed in their possessions. The decree finding the land claimed by Connecticut belonged to Pennsylvania, did not affect the private possessions of individuals. Pennsylvania kept the equity of the settlers in abeyance until April 4, 1799, when the legislature passed an act for offering compensation to the Pennsylvania claimants of land in the seventeen townships. Then the possessions of the Connecticut settlers were confirmed and Pennsylvania claimants took their compensation. Thus closed the controversy.
Some of the disputants in those various troubles have left their mark on other portions of the history of the country. Col. John Jenkins was the main spokesman and penman of the Connecticut people. His papers and addresses excited a powerful influence on his constituents. But he finally linked his fortunes to the "half share men." Timothy Pickering, who came here as the agent for Pennsylvania and, was prothonotary of Luzerne county on its first organization, was mainly instrumental in passing the confirming law of 1787, and was a stanch adherent of the cause of the settlers. Gen. John Armstrong's last act here, where he was wantonly harsh in attempting to dispossess the settlers, was a parting shot at the men he could not subdue, and he called the people vagrants and desperadoes. In view of the heroic life work of the men who stood up for their possessions, refusing to become abject slaves, and always willing to accept the provisions of a just government, we will accept the lineage he assigned to our predecessors. In Upham's Life of Timothy Pickering he delivers a catholic judgment of Pennsylvania, referring to her lenient course in the controversy, reflecting honor upon her wisdom and humanity. At different times she took many of the settlers prisoners and confined them at Easton, not executing upon them any military or judicial penalties; treating them, not as wicked, but as misguided men, and allowing them to be discharged. Such a course is entitled to commendation and honor. No conflict accompanied by so much provocation is so little stained by cruelty or has a better record for bravery and endurance then this over the Wyoming lands. The same author also presents a charitable view of the Connecticut settlers and the conditions which they felt. [p.168] They had built houses, barns and cultivated the soil. Naturally such a man will hold his own and fight for it against the world. And the possession becomes endeared by association, and consecrated by special experiences of blood and woe. Those who escaped the tomahawk and scalping knife had come back again from their refuge. The invincible, indestructible community persevered in the contest against all odds, and no power, civilized or barbarian, could root it out.
With judicial impartiality he concludes thus: Upon balancing the facts and evidence we are brought not to the conclusion usually the result of a fair consideration of the whole subject in like cases, that both parties were in the wrong, but that both parties were substantially in the right.